Zindziswa Mandela-Hlongwane was a South African politician and serving South African Ambassador to Denmark at the time of her death. Zindzi Mandela was the daughter of anti-apartheid activists Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the younger sister of Zenani Mandela and the third of Nelson Mandela’s three daughters.
Zindzi Mandela was born on 23 December 1960 in Soweto, to parents were both wanted by the government in what was then the Union of South Africa. She was 18 months old when her father was sent to prison and was often left in the care of her older sister, Zenani when her mother was intermittently sent to prison.
In 1977, her mother was banished to the Orange Free State and Zindzi went to live with her there. She was finally able to complete her education when she was sent to Swaziland. Eventually, her mother was allowed to move back to Soweto. In 1978, Zindzi’s poetry was published in the book Black as I Am, with photographs by Peter Magubane. The poetry appeared in publications including Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing, edited by Sterling Plumpp. It also appeared on Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.
She went on to study law at the University of Cape Town, where she earned a BA in 1985. In the same year, Nelson Mandela was offered a conditional release by the then-State President of South Africa, P. W. Botha. The 25-year-old Zindzi was chosen to read his refusal at a public meeting on 10 February 1985, as both her parents were unavailable. She married Zwelibanzi Hlongwane and gave birth to four children: Zoleka Mandela, (1980), Zondwa Mandela (1985), Bambatha Mandela (1989) and Zwelabo Mandela (1992).
In 1996 after Mandela was elected president and his divorce from Winnie, Zindziswa was chosen to accompany her father to his inauguration and become the stand-in First Lady of South Africa. This went on for two years until her father remarried former Mozambique first lady Graça Machel in 1998 on his 80th birthday.
In 2011, She was said to have agreed to arrange a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to coincide with her father’s birthday. The match did not take place and the boxing promoter Duane Moody sued successfully for a US court to order that she pay US$4.7m, plus costs, in damages to Moody.
In 2013, She married her second husband, Molapo Motlhajwa, who was a member of the South African National Defence Force. The following year, Zindzi was appointed South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark in 2014. She first arrived in Denmark in June 2015.
In June 2019, Mandela’s Twitter account sent a series of controversial Tweets, where she discussed “trembling white cowards who are the thieving rapist descendants of Van Riebeck [sic]”, and “uninvited visitors who don’t want to leave”. While being investigated by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) for breaching their social media policy, Mandela remained defiant, tweeting that she was not accountable to any white man or woman for her personal views. She was ordered by foreign minister Naledi Pandor to “conduct herself as a diplomat” and to adhere to the department’s social media policy. Furthermore, former president Thabo Mbeki expressed concern about her views which were described as hate speech by ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang. However, her opinions drew support from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala. Her Tweets came close to the end of her four-year term as ambassador to Denmark.
Zindzi died on 13 July 2020 in Johannesburg, at the age of 59.